Here’s a later installment in Errol Flynn’s catalog of swashbuckling movie roles. The story is loosely based on the Robert Louis Stevenson novel of the same name.
(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)
The story is a wild tale with Errol Flynn playing the title role as Jamie Durie, a Scottish noble in the 18th century who goes to war to bring Bonnie Prince Charlie to the throne of Britain. But when the Stuart pretender is defeated, Durie and an Irish comrade have to flee Scotland leaving Durie’s brother to inherit Ballantrae and possibly Jamie’s fiancée. During his exile he is hijacked by a treacherous sea captain, captured by pirates and then turns pirate himself before returning to Scotland with a fortune to claim his bride from his supposedly duplicitous brother. But when his brother saves him from an English hangman’s noose they are reconciled and his fiancée escapes with him for a life of adventure.
This was Flynn’s last feature with Warner Bros. but the story moves along very smartly and he can still swashbuckle with the best of them. The script was good enough. I especially liked the pirate sequence. All of the colorful character actors were way over the top but I think they provided just the right atmosphere for a light-hearted romp of an adventure story. If you’re looking for an old-fashioned adventure story, this is it. Errol Flynn makes it work one last time.
I remember finding a copy of the novel Kim in my home when I was a kid. Not knowing much about colonial India at the time some of the references were obscure to me. But the story was engaging. Many years later I saw the motion picture and enjoyed the story all over again. Errol Flynn and Dean Stockwell carry most of this movie on their shoulders with Stockwell as the title character, an orphan son of a British soldier living as a native boy in the streets of India and Flynn as a spy for the British Intelligence Office known as Mahbub Ali, The Red Beard. And in the Flynn’s affable relationship with the boy, it reminds me of his performance in the 1937 movie “The Prince and the Pauper” where his character befriends and ultimately saves the Prince of Wales from his misadventures.
This story is a cloak and dagger spy story of the “The Great Game” between England and Russia in Asia and also a coming-of-age story for the boy. He discovers his roots and makes some valuable friends. He learns different lessons about himself from sources as different as a Tibetan Lama and a British Intelligence Officer.
And along the way he shows himself to be brave, resourceful and reliable to all those he befriends. The story is one of Kipling’s best and has a fantasy feel to it that belies the 19th century time frame it exists in. Stockwell and Flynn and the supporting cast are excellent in this tale and it is a throwback to the 1930s and 40s when movies of this sort were more common. And the portrayal of life in colonial India with Europeans enjoying their white privilege would be completely unacceptable to woke viewers so of course knowing it would outrage those losers makes it that much more amusing to watch.
Read the book if you haven’t and then watch the movie. Both are highly recommended.
Everyone knows the outline of the Robin Hood story. Robin is a Saxon nobleman who fights to avenge the oppression that the Saxons suffer at the hands of their Norman overlords. He steals from the rich and gives to the poor. He is a superb archer. The story goes that while King Richard is absent on the Crusade his brother John uses the circumstance to overtax and terrorize the Saxon population. The local tyrant for this story is the Sheriff of Nottingham who hunts relentlessly for Robin. The happy ending is Richard’s return to England.
In this Warner Brothers’ version Sir Guy of Gisbourne, played by Basil Rathbone inherits the activities usually given to the Sheriff of Nottingham and is Robin Hood’s primary enemy. Robin is iconically portrayed by Errol Flynn in his most famous and most successful part. And his love interest, the Maid Marian Fitzwalter is played by Olivia de Havilland. Rounding out the major parts are Claude Rains as Prince John, Eugene Pallette as Friar Tuck and Alan Hale as Little John. But many of the smaller parts are also ably performed by a crew of excellent character actors.
Robin Hood’s heroics and acrobatics are generously sprinkled throughout the film and swashbuckling is a word that might as well have been invented for this movie. Robin and his merry men swing on vines through Sherwood Forest, scale castle walls, and sword fight their way up and down stone staircases with the greatest of ease. Robin can shoot backward from a galloping horse and hit his foes with arrows as they gallop along in the dark. And of course, the feat of splitting an arrow with an arrow in the bulls’ eye is called a “Robin Hood.” And so, it becomes the climax of yet another chapter in the film. Robin fearlessly confronts his enemies right in their strongholds and only once is captured. But on the brink of being hanged he is rescued by his men and returns to Sherwood in triumph. And finally, when King Richard returns to England in disguise, Robin saves both him and Marian from the murderous plots of Prince John.
And in the spirit of the happy ending Robin kills Sir Guy in a sword fight, restores Richard to the throne and is betrothed to Marian with the king’s blessings. Because this is 1938 a certain part of the reason for this movie is the pro-British sentiment that was being sponsored by the US government to counter the rise of Nazi Germany. But it really isn’t necessary to justify the regard that this movie received at its release. It actually is a remarkably stirring film. Errol Flynn embodies the swashbuckling hero and Basil Rathbone and Claude Rains positively exude villainy and malice. As I mentioned earlier, all of the bit players are excellent and the script is crisp and the stunts wonderfully choreographed. It is an altogether lively and spirited romp.
If you’ve never seen this movie, I suggest that you remedy that deficiency as soon as you get the chance. Very highly recommended for old and young alike.